Category Archives: Arab-Israeli Conflict

Why I am a member of Peace When

Two State Solution, yes, just not now;

or,

Why I am a member of Peace When.

Almost everyone in the positive-sum world of “getting to win-win” agrees that the most equitable resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is a two-state solution. Land for peace, reciprocal compromise, give a little, get a lot. This positive-sum thinking lies at the heart of what makes modern democracy possible, and has enabled the Europeans to replace millennia of wars between tribes and nations (in medieval times, an annual activity) with a cooperative and productive Union. To progressives, it’s so obvious that, as one BBC analyst put it: you could work it out with an email.

And yet, the conflict has proven amazingly enduring, and resistant to the best intentioned efforts of Western outsiders for the last twenty years. Indeed, not only did it ruin the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but it made fools of both of Obama’s Secretaries of State, who confidently predicted that they would resolve this in less than a year(!). Like a Sisyphus with Alzheimers, doomed to repeat the same motions without registering the repetition, Western “conflict resolution” experts repeatedly attempt to implement the same “positive-sum” solutions, with predictably the same results: not just no success, but actual failure. The situation is worse after than before.

What escapes many who, like me, accept the idea of a two state solution, is the unmentioned now that accompanies all current efforts. This notion that this solution can and should be implemented right away, has good reasons behind it. In addition to its concern for a putting an end to the suffering caused by the conflict as soon as possible, the haste acknowledges the demographic problems in the next generation: can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

Both are good reasons to want to move quickly, but not good reasons to ignore the obstacles in the way. The reality on the ground, the combination of “strong horse” political culture, and tribal, apocalyptic Jihadi religious culture, makes it impossible to close one’s eyes and hope that both sides are ready for it, and it’s just a matter of finding the right formula of compromise to hit the jackpot.

On the Honor-Shame-Jihad Paradigm: Response to a reader

I recently posted my responses to policy question posed to me by a classmate. In it I referred repeatedly to the Honor-Shame-Jihad paradigm (HSJP) that I think handles the reality here far better than either the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP1) or the Post-Colonial one (PCP2). One reader found serious defects in the HSJP. Another reader answered him. Below, my response.

Looking at Muslims as being driven by an Honor-Shame-Jihad dynamic is full of problems:

1. It’s hard to confirm or refute the analysis. I’d need to psychoanalyze a bunch of Muslims or be a mind-reader. It’s a picture of the internal mental state of people from another culture.

I hope you’re not as reluctant to interpret what people say in your real life as you are in this case. The evidence for this mindset is overwhelming. Just spend some time listening in at either MEMRI or PalWatch, and listen to what they say in Arabic, or at least read the works of those who do pay attention to what they say.

2. HSJ reeks of our self-flattery. They have this mental problem, we don’t. It could be an intellectual way of saying “Ah, you’re nuts!”. I should beware of any analysis that flatters me.

Agreed on the suspicion of self-flattering analysis. As the fox says to the crow he duped into losing his cheese: “All flattery lives at the expense of those who listen to it.” But there’s an equally dangerous tendency, which is to ignore a good analysis because it puts one (or in this case, one’s culture) in a good light. The moral chasm between Western democratic values and those of global Jihad are so massive that only a kind of insane self-abnegation (of the kind Martin Amis ran into in London) could miss it. This hardly means we in the West don’t have serious problems – every society does. But it does mean that they are of a radically different order from groups that believe that slavery and the slaughter of civilians are legitimate forms of “defense.”

3. HSJ could be true anyway, but it doesn’t lead to a clear plan for a solution.

Actually, I think it does. Above all, it makes it possible to identify the motivations and goals of the enemy. This helps eliminate the non-possibilities like the “win-win” Oslo “peace process,” which only empowered global Jihad. It makes it possible to identify problems like triumphalist Islam, and figure out ways to resist.

4. HSJ skips over more mundane but probably more powerful factors, especially the impact of “Oil money”.

Quite the contrary it helps understand how the Oil money impacts certain groups like Salafis and Wahabbis.

a) By the year 2000, Islam and Jihad were problems for the West. In 1900, Islam was not a problem.

Tell that to the British in Khartoum dealing with the Mahdi (1882 CE = 1300 AH).

But back in 1800, Islam was a problem, mainly in the form of the Barbary Pirates, who kidnapped people and sold them as slaves.

b) If the Western industrialized countries had dumped trillions of dollars on the Eskimos, the Laplanders, the Zulus, or the Russian peasantry, they’d also have decided that God loves them specially, and they should use their wealth to conquer the world. Why not the Muslims?

That may be so, although far less likely. None of those groups has a religious tradition with strong tendencies towards world conquest, nor adherents numbering over a billion all around the world. I think you need to do some more reading before you make comparisons that really don’t reflect the real world.

In any case, the 21st century is a completely different kettle of fish. Globalization has transformed culture-contact. For the implications, see Amy Chua, World on Fire. As for Jihadis, they see Western, technology-driven globalization as the vehicle for their success: Praeparatio Califatae.

c) If the Muslim world were pushed back to the state of misery, poverty, and ignorance they had before the discovery of oil, their HSJ dynamic wouldn’t matter to us at all. The prescription is to pump out the oil without paying for it.

There’s no question that oil money feeds Jihad, which is one reason why it’s so bizarre that people worried about global warming don’t seem to care much about Jihad, even though the two are closely bound. As for the state of misery, poverty and ignorance, all the petrodollars in the world have had very little effect on the Muslim masses, whose elites have (typically) gorged on the surplus and kept them in the dark.

In any case, poverty, misery and ignorance are not the main sources of Jihad. Triumphalism is. Jihad is not an act of desperation, it’s an act of aspiration.

Policy Perspectives from the World of Apocalyptic Honor-Shame

I recently received a challenge from one of my less avid fans on a list-serv that I participate in. He challenged me to answer a series of policy questions from the perspective I irritatingly espouse – namely current Western policy concerning the Middle East and Islamic nations is useless at best, self-defeating, even suicidal, at worst because it ignores what I call the HSJ paradigm that focuses on honor-shame dynamics and their current vehicle, apocalyptic Jihad.

I post here my answers.

Dealing with Islam:

Right now in the West, the reigning prime directive reads: “Don’t piss them off.” We think it’s the “vast majority of Muslims” that we thus soothe, but we also encourage the triumphalists, especially with the extent of our placation, our appeasement.

Instead of thus empowering triumphalist aggression, we should pick our fights and target triumphalism. There are so many places the cultural Maginot Line of a robust civil society have crumbled, so many places to start getting serious about what Muslims ask of us and we ask of Muslims. (For a good view of one of the early collapse see, alas, France after 2ooo in The Lost Territories of the Republic.) We need to arm progressive Muslims in their fight with the forces of triumphalism, not concede repeatedly (often with a post-colonial objective) to triumphalist aggression.

Without reciprocal relations, free societies cannot exist, much less aspire to the near utopian hopes of global progressives.

Educate about Islam, not just the masses but the policy folks. I’ve spoken to an audience of 400 people in homeland security and only 1/10 of them claimed they knew what dar al Islam and dar al Harb is. If you don’t know that, you’re historically and religiously illiterate about a crucial element of our current predicament. And 15 years after 9-11, and 26 years after Khoumeini’s fatwah against Rushdie extended Shari’a to the West?! We can’t afford that ignorance.

Right now, we are babes in the woods. As much as I want to believe what you [another list member] say about this administration [being fully aware of the problem], everything I see and hear indicates the opposite: it is overprotective of the “99.9%” of Muslims who, they tell us on their behalf, “reject the extremists.” Where does Obama come up with this stuff? How on earth can serious people take this seriously? Unless of course, they’re in such denial about the problem we face that they’ll take the pablum.

But part of our predicament has been we believed that these indulgences in moral posturing (PC) – Moral and Tolerant Europe Triumphant, The Passionate “cause” of the Palestinian Underdog – were somehow cost free. (If “tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’ecoute,” then how damaging is self-flattery, which can be endless?)

On the contrary, these moral postures have allowed the Jihadis to maneuver the progressives into suicidal positions, into a proleptic dhimmitude where the GPL sees itself salvific warriors bringing world peace through self-abnegation, even as it submits to Muslim triumphalist demands that they not only dare not criticize (triumphalist) Muslims, but, rather, they must adopt the Muslim enemy (Israel).

Syria

(Let’s just hope it’s better than criticizing the Obama Administration for not giving enough aid to the Free-Syrian Army).  American troops?  How about Israeli troops  (no, that wouldn’t work); Turks?  (strike that);  Iran (Never, never).

Syria is a symptom of a breakdown of a political culture. The Arab “Spring” was actually a quake that hit a very weak political culture – Lee Smith’s Strong Horse. Those political dynamics reflect a broader, heavily authoritarian (patriarchal honor-murders) culture, and these social dynamics make it virtually impossible to launch and sustain a democratic political culture.

Instead it was springtime for Jihad and tribal warfare.

As for policy, our our journalists and academics and talking heads, systematically misinformed us about the situation beforehand, as well as during. With foolish expectations borne of the “post-colonial” paradigm, we thought – and were encouraged to foresee – a wave, from Tunisia to Syria of more democratic, vibrant, civil societies. Muslim Brotherhood? “Moderate,” and “almost secular.”  So whether we intervene (Libya) or don’t (Syria), it works to the advantage of the Jihadis because they are the most brutal in a brutal culture, and we are clueless. And when they fail, as all such brutal efforts do, they – at least under current conditions – just prepare more wretched chaos to fuel the next round of violence.

To think differently about this means having an appreciation of the impact our behavior has on others (allegedly a Western specialty).

In 2003, when the GPL and European countries (led by Chirac) had such a grand time turning Bush into the Antichrist, I got an email from a medievalist who was in Tunisia. “The Arabs think the French are weak. They side with their enemies and humiliate their friends.” By that logic, I can assure you that triumphalist Muslims think the Left is weak.

I’m not saying, “don’t oppose the Iraq War just because you don’t want to look like a wuss,” but rather “be cognizant of the impact of what you’re doing in terms of how your enemy (triumphalist Islam) perceives you.” The public mutual contempt the Left and Right have expressed for each other has done terrible damage.

In the 11th century, it was emperor and pope attacking each other publicly for fifty years that loosened revolutionary forces; and among the beneficiaries of that open hostility, were the free towns, the urban communes of the later 11th and 12th centuries. In the 21st cn, however, by far the greatest benefactor of public hostilities between twin poles of public discourse (in this case right-left, rather than royal-papal) has been the Jihadis… by comparison with a progressive 11th cn, the 21st cn looks alarmingly regressive.

We can’t even begin to think strategy much less tactics as long as we can’t talk about this larger massive politico-cultural failure/dysfunction in the Arab and Muslim world. And yet, thru some alchemical process operated by a particularly irresponsible branch of post-modernism, it has become “racist” to address cultural and religious problems.

Iran –Let’s hear the deal/threats or  bombing policy that you recommend and why?

I’d go very strong on rallying collective hostility to Iranian claims, use every kind of pressure to get them to stand down. i wd have been blown away if you had told me in the 1980s that the nuclear disarmament crowd would not say a word in the 21st century about re-starting a nuclear arms race, this time in the highly volatile Muslim world, i’d have said, “don’t be absurd.”

Of course, if you told a signer of the Hamas Charter, with its genocidal paranoid participation in a movement for global Islamic dominion, that within twenty years, infidels would be marching in the streets with their banners, shouting “we are Hamas!” he would have responded, “Only Allah can make infidels that stupid.”

Iraq  (Can’t be working with Iranian, Shi’a militias, right?)

What Explains Own-Goal War Journalism? Response to Jon Dyson

Jon Dyson who blogs at Arguement4Israel recently posted a long response to my BBC and Own-Goal Lethal Journalism piece. It is very important, and disagrees with me in valuable ways. So I’m posting it as a separate post, with commentary and response interspersed. (This is not a fisking.)

Lethal journalism undoubtedly threatens to disarm society in the face of lethal threats. But I fear that the explanation of lethal journalism provided in your text (and your speech at the recent meeting in London on the BBC) regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is misleading.

For sure, the dangerous anti-Israel bias and outrageous misreporting of the BBC and much of the international media presents the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a Palestinian-David-victim vs Israeli-Goliath-oppressor battle. And as a result, the ‘news’ they broadcast systematically promotes material that is bad about Israel and little that is good – and the reverse about the Palestinians – along with Palestinian propaganda presented as news, scandalous omissions, etc.

And let’s not leave out the self-destructive nature of the actions – the BBC, by taking on the Palestinian “narrative” as news, pumps Jihadi propaganda into its own public sphere, encouraging Jihadi hatreds both directly (BBC lethal journalism used as recruiting device for Jihad), and indirectly (promoting among Westerners hatred of a civilizational ally and friend whom the Jihadis hate).

Several reasons have been suggested to account for this, such as antisemitism or feelings of post-colonial guilt. But your article/speech suggests that these are inadequate to explain the pack mentality shown by the preponderance of pro-Palestinian views in the mass media. Instead, the main weight of the suggested explanation is placed elsewhere: on ‘the pervasive culture of intimidation’. Firstly, there is intimidation by the Palestinians, such as against the press-corps by Hamas in the war in Gaza last year. Secondly, there is peer pressure among reporters (and, presumably, corporate pressure from news organizations?) to ensure conformity to a pro-Palestinian narrative.

Nicely put. Can’t complain with your summary.

Such intimidation undoubtedly exists. But the issue is whether or not its presence is sufficient to explain the pro-Palestinian stance of so much of the international media. Unfortunately, the example used in the article/speech, BBC reports of a supposed IDF attack on Shiffa hospital,

Actually, Shati refugee camp, but they were both part of the same set of Hamas rockets gone astray.

did not demonstrate coercion at all. Instead, it was another demonstration of BBC misreporting that needs to be explained.

Not clear here. My explanation is that their “misreporting” was actually fully compliant with Palestinian demands. (Preparing something on this right now.) That compliance reflects a pervasive surrender to Palestinian demands, which in turn reflects an unstated fear of retaliation.

ISIS, Palestinian Terrorism, and Global Jihad: Fisking Naomi Chazan

Naomi Chazan, former head of the NIF fund, has a piece in direct contradiction to an article that Tablet published the following day in which I noted:

People who insist that Hamas and ISIS have nothing to do with each other give global jihad an enormous boon: They disguise Hamas by presenting it as a movement for national liberation even as it fans the flames of global jihad. In so doing, many Westerners think they help the Palestinian cause, when in fact they empower a leadership that willingly sacrifices ordinary Palestinians to advance its cause, and at the same time, empower the global jihadis by running their Palestinian propaganda as news, and reinforcing a collective sense of victimization.

Instead of recoiling from the horror, the more demented—but sincere—Western “progressives” shout “We are Hamas.” And those Israelis who rush to assure the global community that people who argue, as I have above, are just trying to hide their own crimes against the Palestinians, effectively blind those who listen to their counsel to a shared foe of all decent people—Muslim, Jew, Christian, and secular, alike.

Since she takes precisely the position I was criticizing (had I known, I would have linked it at “those Israelis who rush,” and since her thinking illustrates nicely the cognitive disarray that cripples both Israeli and more broadly Western intelligentsia, I think it worth a fisking. I’ll pay special attention to identifying the political agenda that drives her insistence that the Palestinians have nothing to do with ISIS.

Unfortunately, the piece is a collection of assertions, repeated far more often than explained or supported. So at certain key points I’ll both develop her own argument and rebut it. Sigh.

Terror, terrorism and terrorists

NOVEMBER 23, 2015, 12:19 PM
BLOGGER Naomi Chazan
Professor Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo


A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, October 18, 2015. (AFP/JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Terrorism is the most abhorrent of political tools: it is a purposeful act of violence directed primarily against innocent civilians in order to create intense fear and sow widespread havoc to promote particular political goals. The use of terrorism is vile: it is merciless, indiscriminate, cruel, and beyond inhumane. Any act of terrorism — whether in Paris or Jerusalem, in Bamako or in New York, in Damascus or in Bangkok — is unconscionable.

So far so good. She’s already less compliant with Jihadi demands that AFP, which published a list of terror attacks from 9-11 to the ones in France this month, which excluded attacks of Israelis.

The broad condemnation of the latest unspeakable wave of terrorism is more than justified; the frequent conflation of these actions with their motives — which confuses cause and effect — is not.

Huh?

Israeli officials, often backed by the media, have contributed to this discombobulation.

Here she no doubt means the few Israeli and other pro-Israel media outlets who operate in something of an echo chamber. The mainstream media firmly rejects the position she is about to describe.

Israeli Responses to Paris Attacks and European Cognitive Disarray

This piece is published at Tablet Magazine.

In an Age of Terror, How Thinking Right Can Save the Left

What’s needed is more tribalism, not less

Among the responses in Israel to the Paris Terror Attacks, there has emerged a divide that deserves attention. Depending on where you spend your political time, one or the other response will appear predictable (and lamentable).

First, there are the self-referential Zionists who think, as they did after the attacks of Sept. 11 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005, and so many other moments: “Now, maybe they’ll understand our plight, and realize we have the same enemies,” and “We Israelis have a lot to teach you.” Their battle-hardened cousins further to the right reply, “Don’t bother trying, they’re all anti-Semitic and judge us by a double standard” or even “The West deserves what they’re getting, as a punishment for their hypocrisy.”

On the other hand, we have those who see this entire range of responses as distasteful, to say the least. Instead, they urge an expression of sympathy and solidarity unclouded by words of reproach, by displaying the French flag online as a way to declare #JeSuisFrançais. It’s really not cool for Israelis to complain about a double standard at a time like this, they scold. It’s not about us—it’s about France. As for those people, like the prime minister, who compare ISIS to Palestinian terrorists, they are engaging in a low form of propaganda, trying to use the victims of other wars in other places to wash away the sins of Israeli occupation.

In a deeply disturbing and repeating 21st-century, paradox, however, the approach of Israel’s generous and selfless ones has worked to the benefit of most regressive forces on the planet—while on the contrary, the voice that awakening Europe needs most to heed in the current crisis is that of those self-centered Israelis who relate European woes to their own pain. The failure to understand this paradox explains both why Western elites are so poor at resisting global jihad, and why, for a disaffected youth—Muslim by birth or by choice—it makes sense to join that jihad. Indeed, this split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks illustrates the disproportionate impact of a peculiar Jewish dispute on the current cognitive disorientation of the West.

But first, let’s explain our terms. Let’s call the first response the tribalist approach. It is centered on the self, preoccupied with defending family, clan, group; suspicious by default of others, especially of strangers; and easily rendered defensive by threatening behavior. Tribalists think in terms of “us vs. them”; they treat “their own” differently from others, and when they feel sufficiently threatened, they will lash out. They think of their own pain and feel anger at hypocrisy (in this case against the French for their 15-year-long indifference to the pain of their Jews). This mindset historically favors vengeful attitudes—“they deserve it”—and rough justice.

Politically, these folks appear on the “right” of our spectrum, and they remind us of historical periods when people with power lacked empathy and used it cruelly, a political culture of rule or be ruled, that democracies hope to have outgrown. Tribalists are the zero-sum folks: “I only win if they lose,” and, “they only understand force.” Like Huntington, one of their intellectual heroes, these tribalists tend to lookfor enemies. They find reasons to be belligerent, to provoke war, they “invent the enemy.”

Let’s call the second response the universalist: considerate of others, self-abnegating: “This is not about Israel.” These are the positive-sum folks, the ones who make friends, who build on trust, who come up with mutually beneficial projects from which everyone profits, who look for the voluntary win-win rather than the coercedwin-lose. They reject the selfish me first, the invidious us-them, the tribal my side right or wrong.

These folks appear on the “left” of our political spectrum. They empathize with the “other” and embrace diversity. They can and want to trust. In renouncing the win-lose, they become capable of granting dignity and freedom to others—the fundamental social contract of a successful egalitarian culture. They imagine themselves as inhabitants of a future diverse, civil, and peaceful global community, where racism and xenophobia are no more.

This dichotomy between tribal and universal sheds light on the current paradoxical situation in Europe, where the most extraordinary cognitive disarray rules. Specifically, when it comes to judging Israel’s conflict with its neighbors, Europeans have inverted vision. And the ensuing radical cognitive disorientation contributes to a fatal misreading of the forces Europeans themselves face.

By and large, the European elites—journalists, academics, policy pundits, political class—are members of the universalist camp. In their reading, Israelis are the zero-sum players. They deserve the hostility of their neighbors; they have brought uponthemselves the suicide bombings, the intifadas, and the deep hatreds. They have done so with their settlements and occupation and humiliating checkpoints and periodic bombing raids that kill hundreds of children and thousands of innocent civilians.

In the tent pissing in: Fisking J-Street’s Alan Elsner’s Op-Ed on Jerusalem Violence

CNN published an op-ed by Alan Eisner. It’s logic is quintessential (cookie cutter) J-Street logic. Good insight into how Western audiences tragically misread the situation here. I first experienced Elsner at a conference on BDS at University of Baltimore Law School. Feeling a bit defensive, he at one point said, “Look, do you want us in the tent pissing out, or outside the tent, pissing in.” To which someone from the audience called out, “We’re afraid you’ll be in the tent pissing in.” And here we go.

Stabbings put Israel on dangerous precipice

Alan Elsner is vice president of communications for J Street, the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Well, except that CNN, in its disavowal, still manages to parrot J-Streets own self-designation as news, “pro-Israel, pro-Peace.” There are some who think that, like they used to say about the “moral majority”, it’s neither. And especially after their utterly gratuitous, enthusiastic involvement in the Iran Deal, where they partnered with real enemies of Israel, it’s worse than a “not,” it’s beginning to like anti-Israel and anti-peace.

Jerusalem (CNN) To be in Jerusalem these past few days is to feel a city giving way to an overwhelming feeling of panic and terror.

Actually not at all. Jerusalemites responded with a great deal of what the French call sang froid, defended themselves remarkably well, and by and large did not let the madness of their neighbors drive them into the “overwhelming panic and terror,” which was precisely the intention of our mad neighbors. His description is precisely what the Palestinians want to hear.

The city, on high alert after a series of stabbings by Palestinians in recent weeks, is surrounded by roadblocks and checkpoints manned by nervous, heavily-armed soldiers. Helicopters whir overhead. Any Palestinian vehicle trying to enter is stopped and searched. The government has empowered the police to close off Palestinian neighborhoods and impose curfews.

And yet it is doubtful whether these measures can do anything to restore calm or prevent attacks. Israel is not facing an offensive mounted by organized terror cells but a series of seemingly spontaneous individual knife attacks mostly carried out by teenagers.

They say that predictions often express wishful thinking. Here we have a prediction that, again, coincides with Palestinian goals: “If only we can turn this into an intifada!” Why would Elsner want that? Maybe because it will force more Israeli concessions.

As for the random nature of this, that’s deeply misleading. The thing is orchestrated, not it its details, but in it incitement, from the top, including Mr. Moderate (according to J-Street), Abu Mazen. Stop the incitement, rally Palestinians who oppose abusing and sacrificing their children on the altar of genocidal violence, and voilà, you can stop this madness.

Psychotic Palestine: Bret Stephens Nails it, alas!

Recently, in an interview with Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mark Regev, a BBC journalist asked the following question:

“What we’re seeing is people who are born in this century, people born post Oslo accord now taking the view that Israelis should be killed. One wonders how they got those views, I don’t know how they got those views other than from watching Israeli behavior if you like being provoked by that or feeling they’ve been provoked by that what they observed from the community they oppose.”

The amount of ignorance that underlies such a question (malevolence aside) is truly staggering. Obviously the BBC, like so many other news outlets, keeps its viewers and readers ignorant to the massive campaign of hatred and incitement to genocidal violence that occurs in the Palestinian public sphere on a constant basis. As one response, below, I’ve posted and commented on an excellent article by Bret Stephens.

Palestine: The Psychotic Stage

The truth about why Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust.

 

Israeli security forces and emergency services next to the body of a Palestinian who carried out a stabbing attack in the old city of Jerusalem on Oct. 3. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

By  BRET STEPHENS

Wall Street Journal

Oct. 12, 2015 7:34 p.m. ET

321 COMMENTS

If you’ve been following the news from Israel, you might have the impression that “violence” is killing a lot of people. As in this headline: “Palestinian Killed As Violence Continues.” Or this first paragraph: “Violence and bloodshed radiating outward from flash points in Jerusalem and the West Bank appear to be shifting gears and expanding, with Gaza increasingly drawn in.”

Or the NYT headline, Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt his Car in West Bank, which they later amended to leave out the mistake of “West Bank” but clung fervently to their reification of stones, which, in their language “pelted the road the man was driving on.” Thet  basic principle from the Palestinian Media Protocols with which they are fully compliant insists that Palestinians are innocent victims. Saying that Palestinians pelted his car with stones would violate those Protocols.

Read further, and you might also get a sense of who, according to Western media, is perpetrating “violence.” As in: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police,” according to one headline. Or: “Israeli Retaliatory Strike in Gaza Kills Woman and Child, Palestinians Say,” according to another.

Such was the media’s way of describing two weeks of Palestinian assaults that began when Hamas killed a Jewish couple as they were driving with their four children in the northern West Bank. Two days later, a Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem’s Old City, and also slashed a woman and a 2-year-old boy. Hours later, another knife-wielding Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli police after he slashed a 15-year-old Israeli boy in the chest and back.

 Or, when two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in Har Nof and butchered four men at their morning prayers, CNN ran the headline:

CNN jerusalem mosque

From Al Durah to Hassan: The Last 15 Years in 1 easy lesson

Today, Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudineh denounced Israel for “executing” a Palestinian boy, and compared this incident to the murder of Muhammad al Durah in 2000. The mashup got tweeted almost simultaneously.

aldurah 2015

#NEW_MUHAMMAD_ALDURAH

The discourse is powerful on multiple levels. Associating this picture with Al Durah attempts to give it the power was the icon of hatred that gave the “Al Aqsa Intifada” so much of its intensity, it was literally a banner of violence.

It fed an entire industry of indoctrinating hatred and a desire for martyrdom among Palestinian youth. As one fresh faced 12 year old girl assured her approving interviewer, “everyone want to be a martyr.” By which she meant, everyone wants to blow themselves up amidst a bunch of Israelis to kill and maim as many of them as possible.

What to do when you realize there’s No 2-State Solution: Fisking Shlomo Avineri

Shlomo Avineri, renowned professor of Political Science at Hebrew University wrote an op-ed recently in which (without really saying that he was critiquing his own positions) he dismissed as fatally flawed the Oslo logic of “two states” because the Palestinians do not see the conflict in those terms and do not consider Israeli claims to statehood legitimate, and will never agree to such a deal. He then explains how the Palestinians do view the problem, and suggests a path of action for Israelis who acknowledge the fatal impasse of past peace-making.

It’s hard to imagine a more striking split between diagnosis and therapy. Having told us we can’t expect reciprocity from the Palestinians, he suggests Israel make unilateral sacrifices. The argument illustrates as well as any I know, why Political “Science” is crippled by its inability to factor into its analyses key factors — neither honor-shame, nor religious, dynamics appear in this discussion.

As a result, Avineri suggests that we deal with a conflict that has resisted all “positive-sum” solutions precisely because of the lack of reciprocity, by making positive-sum sacrifices without any demand for reciprocity.

Palestinian irredentists could not ask for better.

Below, a fisking.

With no solution in sight: Between two national movements

There is more than one reason for the failure of the Oslo Accords, but at the basis lies a fundamental difference in how each side views the conflict.

By Shlomo Avineri | Ha’aretz, Oct. 2, 2015

Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, the time has come to ask why they did not bring about the historic compromise envisaged by their initiators and supporters. This is a question to be asked especially by those who supported them and viewed them, justifiably, as the opening toward an epochal reconciliation between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.

“Justifiably?” There’s hardly been an epochal reconciliation. Were they justified in thinking that had it worked, it would have been epochal?

I think “unjustifiably” is the appropriate word here.

There is more than one reason for the failure to achieve an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: mutual distrust between the two populations, internal pressures from the rejectionists on both sides, Yasser Arafat’s repeated deceptions, the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the electoral victories of Likud in Israeli elections, Palestinian terrorism,

Strange that Palestinian terrorism, which innovated with suicide bombing in 1994, would follow the murder of Rabin (1995) and the election of Likud (1997) on this list.

continuing Israeli settlement activities in the territories, the bloody rift between Fatah and Hamas, American presidents who did too little (George W. Bush) or too much and in a wrong way (Barack Obama),

Bush may have done too little in his first administration, but did a great deal, with the hapless efforts of the paradigmatically cognitive egocentric, Condaleezza Rice, in his second.

the political weakness of Mahmoud Abbas, governments headed by Netanyahu that did everything possible to undermine effective negotiations. All this is true, and everyone picks and chooses what fits their views and interests – but beyond all these lies a fundamental difference in the terms in which each side views the conflict, a difference many tend or choose to overlook.

I agree with this last sentence completely.

Most Israelis view the conflict as a struggle between two national movements: the Jewish national movement – Zionism – and the Palestinian national movement as part of the wider Arab national movement. The internal logic of such a view leads in principle to what is called the two-state solution. Even if the Israeli right wing preferred for years to avoid such a view, eventually it has been adopted by Netanyahu, albeit reluctantly, and is now the official policy of his government.

The point is that those Israelis who see the conflict in the framework of a struggle between two national movements assume that this is also the position of the other side; hence when negotiations fail, the recipe advocated is to tinker with some of the details, hoping that further concessions, on one or the other side, will bring about an agreement.

In other words, Israelis by and large – and I’ll attest to this – are positive-sum players. They, like Jews, like progressives, tend to look for win-win solutions, ones where reciprocal compromises lead to both sides benefiting. (Indeed, I’d say that’s one of the main reasons Jews have survived for so many millennia in such adverse conditions. But that’s an aside.)

Avineri’s reference to “tinkering with details” is euphemistic in describing reaction of “true believers” to the failure of their positive-sum Oslo Peace process. As Golan Lahat describes it in his The Messianic Temptation: Rise and Fall of the Israeli Left, the reaction of Israeli Left to Oslo was nothing short of classic “cognitive dissonance” experienced by disappointed messianic believers. And some of the more extravagant forms drove them to believe in even greater and more dramatic sacrifices (including taking all responsibility on Israel for the failure of the negotiations).

Fifteenth Anniversary of the Muhammad al Durah Broadcast

Ten years ago, shortly after producing PallywoodI put out a twenty-minute documentary on Muhammad al Durah, in which I argued the footage that Charles Enderlin had presented to his audience as the targeting and killing of a 12 year old Palestinian boy by the IDF , was in fact an extended exercise in staging. Below is the movie, which now, I see, has over 3/4 of a million views.

I then put out a documentary on the impact of the Al Durah, Icon of Hatred.

Anyone who wishes to look further into the sad tale of news media malfeasance on a massive scale for the last 15 years. see Al Durah Affair: The Dossier at the top right of the page.

I have not given up on this issue, and am now preparing an essay on the two greatest “war news icons” of the 21st century, Al Durah and Alan Kurdi, both major victories for global Jihad.

The Answer to Hisham Milhelm’s Searing Question on Arab Cultural Failure

For Malgorzata Koraszewska’s Polish translation, see here.

I have often lamented the lack of Arab self-criticism (and the surfeit of Jewish self-criticism). About a year ago, Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem wrote a devastating piece about the current state (meltdown) of Arab culture across the boards. He repeatedly insists that this cannot be explained by any one factor. Below, I go through his article and attempt to show how honor-shame dynamics, in the peculiarly pathological form they have taken in the Arab world since the victories of Israel against the Arab onslaught have led to this nadir.

NB: I do not, by this post, mean to insult Arabs – although I realize that much of what both Melhem and I have to say will strike some Arabs as insulting. But in the spirit of self-criticism, I offer these reflections as sober appraisals of an undoubtedly painful reality that we all – Arabs above all – need to think about. The learning curve begins when one dives into self-criticism, rather than violently flees it.

Who brought the Arabs to this nadir?

In recent weeks and months I tried in this space to critique an Arab political culture that continues to reproduce the values of patriarchy, mythmaking, conspiracy theoriessectarianism, autocracy and apolitical/cultural discourse that denies human agency and tolerates the persistence of the old order.

Note the importance in this description of the Arab world, of denying human agency, which is something that Western liberals comply with on a regular basis, treating Arabs and the Muslims  as forces of nature that have no moral agency: Sharon visits the Temple Mount, of course they start an Intifada; say Islam inherently violent, of course they riot in protest. It’s our fault for provoking them, not theirs for having no self-control. Have a thousands of Muslim citizens of Western democracies take off to join savage jihadi armies? It’s the fault of Western racism and Islamophobia.

Of course, this is merely the adoption by Westerners of the logic of the very Arab world Hashem is criticizing: if attractive women make testosteronic men horny, then cover the woman, don’t tell the men to learn self control. News headlines regularly adopt this principle of not attributing agency to Arabs, especially in describing the conflict of Israel with her neighbors: Stones pelt Israelis; Israelis shoot Palestinians.

The article in which I said that the ailing Arab body politic had created the ISIS cancer, and subsequent article published in Politico Magazine generated huge response and sparked debates on Twitter and the blogosphere.

The overwhelming response was positive, even though my analysis of Arab reality was bleak and my prognosis of the immediate future was negative. Yet, these articles were not call for despair, far from it; they are acris de Coeur for Arabs, particularly intellectuals, activists and opinion makers, to first recognize that they are in the main responsible for their tragic conditions, that they have to own their problems before they rely on their human agency to make the painful decisions needed to transcend their predicament.

Yael Lavie Interviews Tuvia Tenenbom on B’tselem’s Holocaust-Denying “Top” Researcher

I’m preparing a post on an interview with Tuvia Tenenbom by I24 reporter Yael Lavie that took place October 8, 2014. Even though it’s old, it illustrates a key dimension of the cogwar against Israel and how even Israeli journalists participate. Below, for further reference, is a transcript of the interview with some brief notes (h/t Sarah Chin).

I welcome any further information or thoughts on what I think is a transcript immensely revealing of current Israeli journalism’s dysfunctions.

Reporter: Welcome back, it is still Wednesday October 8, 2014, this is still the morning edition on i24, where you should be and I am still Yael Lavie last I checked, thank you for staying with us and onto our next topic. Now our next story combines 2 of the core narratives of Israel and the Jewish people, the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As research for his new book, Catch a Jew, author and German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom interviewed Attaf abu a-Rub, field researcher for Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem.  Abu a-Rub has denied the Holocaust. First let’s take this, let’s take a look at this controversial bit and then meet the author himself.

[Clip showing Arab interviewees denying holocaust]

Reporter: Tuvia Tenenbom is with us in studio, first of all thank you so much for joining us.

Tenenbom: thank you for having me, morning

Reporter: Good morning good morning to you, first of all I have a question to you. You actually walk around the West Bank you know and you speak to Palestinians, but yknow the man you spoke with, the B’tselem volunteer [sic] did not know what you were really doing there right?

the implication here is that the revelation is illegitimate because Nutch-al-Rub doesn’t know that it will be reported because Tenenbom is “on the other side.”

Tenenbom: all he knows is this, I was working on this book, that came out in Israel now,

Reporter: To Catch a Jew

Tenenbom: To Catch a Jew, tfoos haeyhudi which means to catch a Jew, and I asked B’tselem at the time if they can, I said I wanted to see as they do an operation from beginning all the way to the end, as they do research, as they collect data and all that stuff. And I spoke to Sarit Michaeli who is the spokesperson of…

Reporter: right

Tenenbom: (continuing) of Btselem and Sarit said to me she’s gonna give me the best, her top researcher and his name is Attif,

Reporter: ok

Tenenbom: I went to meet Attif, we went to Jenin, and we drove to Jordan valley, and then we met people and then he says what he says, he says a lot of things, this is one of them, you know for example if we are to

interruption here at point where more of Attif’s problematic attitudes were about to come out.

Reporter: what did you say to Sarit Michaeli and B’tselem people when you said that you want to join them from the beginning, that you were doing this what for? Did you explain what…

Sorry TT interrupts here, but she was about to accuse him of illegitimately failing to inform B’tselem that he was not sympathetic to them. Implication of such an accusation: B’tselem has a right to keep secrets from the public. Enderlin took precisely the same approach with his tapes of Talal.

Tenenbom: I explained everything, I said I am writing for the German media, I am writing for a paper called Die Zeit, I am writing and the purpose of this one is I’m writing a book for the publishing company in Germany called Suhrkamp, it’s one of the best in Germany and I’m writing about the issues here and I would like to meet and I would like to see, everybody knows B’tselem, I would like to see how it happens

Reporter: but when you set out to start writing the book the premise was actually, that the Palestinian people are anti-Semitic, that was your premise to begin with

in other words you found what you were looking for?

Tenenbom: never ever, this is one of the lies that you have all over, never ever. Actually when I came here

here’s a clash of narratives. YL is here articulating the “word” from the “left” aimed at discrediting the contents of TT’s book. TT’s response – lies – is a sign of how widespread the campaign. whether it’s lies or just misinformation, conjecture presented as facts, is another matter.

Reporter: it’s not the lies, I mean I’m asking you straightforward

protect the conjecture.

Tenenbom: I did not come here because you know I’ve seen it somewhere, I did not come here with any agenda, political, I didn’t even know where I’m going. My commission was, the basic idea was go to Israel because I did already a book a year before that yknow..

Reporter: called?

Tenenbom: I slept in Hitler’s room, says name in Hebrew, I don’t have it here,

Reporter: but that was also…

Tenenbom: it was the same thing, you go to Germany, for 6 months, talk to people and then come up with what it is, what I found out was…

Reporter: the premise of that book was also about anti-Semitism..

Tenenbom: it came out that to be antisemitism, but this was not the idea before,

Reporter: mmm hhhmm

Tenenbom: when I started the subject you have to understand, first of all the two books, were not my ideas. It’s not like I had a guide, a reason, I was chasing something I tried to find something out, no, in both cases there were German companies, publishers, who asked me to do it because they read my articles in Zeit,

Reporter: there’s something you know, the German um uh the German you know editors ask you to write the book, there’s so many things I can say about that

as an interviewer shouldn’t it be “i could ask about that”? Instead, she’s out for bear and passing up moose.

but here’s my question to you, you know you though and I’m just wondering you claim actually your claim is that the Palestinian people are, what, are anti-Semitic?

has she read the book? I think not. Framing telling: are they or aren’t they anti-semitic? a frame only someone in denial might make. Real question based on extensive evidence: how far has the officially sanctioned anti-semitism permeated the society… an answer TT is far more empirically equipped to answer than YL.

Tenenbom: this is not what I claim, this is not this is not what the book is about, the book is about what happens here. One of the things that happens here what the book is exposing is

Reporter: yes

Tenenbom: is things I did not know when I started it, what the book is exposing is there are 1000s upon 1000s and millions upon millions of euros invested by Europeans. I thought when I came here there were two people here, the Arabs and the Jews, and this is the conflict between them, during my travels here, and you have to understand, 7 days a week 14 hours a day,

Reporter: no I understand but (unintelligible)

Tenenbom: everywhere I go I see especially in the Palestinian areas you know I see European NGOs, operating NGOs, and Israeli NGOs FINANCED by Europeans, and some Americans but mostly Europeans, some of it by European governments for the most part

Reporter: I get but the NGO thought Btselem that you interviewed, Btselem had a response, I’m gonna read it out to you:

Btselem Response

this is an interesting moment, since the statement essentially acknowledges the seriousness of the allegation and promises to investigate. Strangely YL doesn’t read the part of the statement that includes B’tselem’s firing of Abu-a-Rub for both saying it, and lying about it. 

Reporter: I mean what is your claim then about Btselem, that one guy, one of their researchers, yknow which by the way a Holocaust Denier, I feel again, I can say this, I come from a family of Holocaust victims, of you know most of, I’m a German Jew, most of my family perished in the holocaust, you know that guy, really doesn’t is not gonna take away anything of my existence, I have to say and I don’t think it projects on the organization itself….

Possibly the most astonishing statement in the interview. Would her ancestors who died in the H agree with her dismissal of the significance of TT’s identifying a denier of the Holocaust. 

The man is a major conduit of information about the behavior of Israelis and the suffering of Palestinians on the West Bank, and his denial of the Holocaust (ie his inability to analyze evidence) doesn’t matter? and shouldn’t reflect on B’tselem? Even B’tselem disagreed.

Tenenbom: no no no this is where you are wrong, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, most Palestinians think there was no Holocaust, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, Attaf is entitled, entitled to his opinion, and I don’t care what Attaf thinks…

interrupts.

Reporter: and many Israelis don’t think there was ever a Palestine or there should be a Palestine…

?!!! comparing denying there ever was a [presumably Arab] Palestine – there never was – or there should be a Palestine – political position – to Holocaust denial. Every side has their “narrative”, same-same, he-said-she-said. YL’s comment reveals a massive disorder in the ability to handle empirical information.

Tenenbom: but..let’s not mix the issues here, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, he’s entitled to his opinion, he’s a nice guy, what I care about, is a (Hebrew) he’s a researcher for Btselem, he’s the guy who’s supposed to come out

Reporter: a researcher for B’tselem is someone who walks around, who walks around with a camera (Tenenbom trying to speak)

Tenenbom: all what B’tselem is what is B’tselem, they have 11 researchers, what is the big issue with B’tselem, they have 11 researchers, all of them Palestinians, ok, all the names you have around it, its nothing to do

in other words, just as happened at Netzarim junction on Sept. 30, 2000, no westerners, israelis are around to cover what goes on in B’tselem’s “information” (really “narrative” acquisition.

Reporter: because that is at the core what btselem does,…

Tenenbom: what I think now if you have a researcher who thinks that there was no holocaust, this is what his own research came up with, you know, how can you rely on other research that he says, when the first time that the clip came out, on channel 2 of Israel, btselem claimed that channel 2 added to the video, they claim that I am lying, that Btselem is lying, when the first time

interruption regularly when TT starts hitting hard.

Reporter: again I have to read I have to read the response they claim (Tenenbom trying to talk) that the btselem employee did in fact make the statement of his own volition

he lied. got caught when more tape made available.

Tenenbom: just a second, let me get there, when the Lech, the Facebook, by a woman named Milach, put the whole, video that you see here, the first response of Btselem was this proves…

Reporter: but you know what we are doing right now, we are doing the same thing that yknow that maybe I think people that have an axe to grind (Tenenbom goes to speak, points finger in his face) let me finish, you know are doing, let’s say you know he’s a holocaust denier this this and that, what does it help, seriously, what does it help, you know, in the agenda of trying to progress a peace process because this is now a battle between you and an NGO, I don’t think he necessarily represents all of the Palestinian people

complete loss of any pretension to be a journalist. and here we see the real framework in which TT’s evidence is ground to dust: what (do i, and my friends) think leads to peace, and what (do i etc) thinks will impede peace. B’tselem, against settlements for peace. You battle B’tselem. Your evidence means nothing in the bigger picture, it doesn’t “represent all of the Palestinian people.”

Tenenbom: this is not a battle between me and an NGO, these are the facts, they know, they denied it, they denied and denied and denied, and after Haaretz said this is what he said, you know they came out, B’tselem finally said

Reporter: but what does it mean, what do you think it means?

Tenenbom: what it means is that they employ people who hate the Jews, who thinks of the Jews…

Reporter: you know there are Israelis who hate Arabs as well

another interruption just as he gets to the point YL has been trying to undermine.

Tenenbom: no of course but you know what, if they had an attack on Iran, and a researcher, a researcher who said that all the Arabs are bad people, or something like that there is no Palestine, never was, B’tselem would have fired that guy or that lady in a second

Reporter: no but the thing is…

Tenenbom: it shows you the mindset of Btselem, you have a mindset and this is what I find, not just B’tselem, I find Shalom Achshav, peace now, I find it in many other left-wing organizations,

Reporter: (trying to interrupt) but that’s because they oppose you opinions,

in other words, whatever you say about the left is just because they don’t share your opinion. hermeneutic seal.

Tenenbom: they are so much with self-haters

Reporter: but to call people whose opinions differ from you that they are self-hating Jews is somewhat doing the same thing as denying their opinion or denying any…

master of narrative relativism. anything but consider the problem TT’s pointing to, which is the zealous masochism of some Israelis leads them to poison the world they think they’re helping.

Tenenbom: they are, everybody is entitled to their opinions, I’m not saying they are not entitled to their opinion, they are entitled to their opinions

Reporter: but they are self-hating Jews

Tenenbom: they are self-hating Jews, if they have the facts, look if you employ these people, and you call them researcher you have a problem with this, and again I have no problem with Attaf, I have no problem with Tamar who goes around paid by the EU, paid by the EU, goes around to….

Reporter: I’m going to stop you right there only because we have a completely different segment coming up. And again I’m glad you joined me because I respect your opinion

not.

Tenenbom: thank you very much and I respect yours

Reporter: even though I might be a self-hating Jew

Tenenbom: no you are nice person

Reporter: thank you, ok we’ll be moving on

Tenenbom: thank you

Rethinking the Political Meme, Right-Left-Wing: Call for Papers

One hears often the complaint that “right and left” are not good terms for describing and categorizing various thinkers in today’s world. But all the complaints barely make a dent in the widespread use of this dichotomy as a key to identifying the “players” in today’s public sphere: journals, public intellectuals, academic fields, politicians, movements, NGOs, think-tanks, are all labeled along a continuum with such nodal identifiers as far- or center- right/left.

Indeed a peculiar dynamic has taken shape over the last two decades: a kind of western “narcissism of small differences,” between right and left wing in which each speaks of the other in strident terms and limits any serious discussion with the other,on the one hand, and the application of left and right to political cultures where they have no possible corresponding meaning, on the other hand. When, 2006, Judith Butler acknowledged that Hamas and Hizbullah, two groups of the most regressive religious zealots, were part of the “global progressive left,” she rendered the term meaningless. Or so one would think. And yet, right and left continue to be used extensively to identify and either include or exclude some voice in the public sphere.

Whatever the problems involved beforehand, in the 21st century, the designations “right” and “left” as they are used, have become a polemical shorthand that dis-informs, rather than informs. Part of this relates to sociability patterns in which “left” and “right” wingers hang together, and view the other as of questionable legitimacy. Readers who accept the labels right and left as indicators of the reliability of the source, tend to dismiss writings labeled the “other side,” as biased and propagandistic. The mutual ostracism that “right” and “left” have accomplished has an increasingly deleterious impact on the discussion in the public sphere.

One of the places where this impact has been most deleterious is in our ability to think about the Muslim and Arab world, the source of some of the most regressive religious forces on the planet, in its most extreme form, a millennial vision of world conquest. And yet despite how much the values of Islamism contradict progressive principles, the closest allies that Jihadis have, in the Western public sphere that they plan to take over, are people self-consciously identified as “the global progressive left.” Judith Butler’s defense of that alliance emphasized the shared bond of anti-imperialism. Dubbed the “anti-imperialism of fools,” by Michael Totten, this leftist embrace of Jihadi groups brought some of the most ferocious imperialists on the planet into the allegedly “anti-imperialist” camp.

Back in the aughts, the irony of siding with imperialists in an “anti-imperial” struggle, might escape a viewer unfamiliar with, say, Muqtada al Sadr’s messianic sadism:

denver al sadr

Democratic National Convention, Denver Colorado, 2008

Today, the contradiction is no longer even hidden:

anti-imperial caliphate

Global Caliphate for Dummies.con

Apocalyptic and Gratuitous Hatreds: The Revival of Jew Hatred in the 21st Century

The following is an only slightly edited version of my farewell lecture at Boston University, April 27, 2015.

The essay is only partially linked. As I reread it, I see numerous jumps in reasoning which make it a difficult read. It in some ways runs the gamut of my research, putting together apocalyptic types, honor-shame, zero- vs. positive-sum, and the huge dilemma we’re in today, where we can’t talk about the most serious threat to global peace (not kidding), and instead, we talk endlessly about the flaws of the Jews, individually and collectively.

Apocalyptic and Gratuitous Hatreds:

The Revival of Jew Hatred in the 21st Century

The rabbis attribute the destruction of the Second Temple to sinat chinam, causeless, or gratuitous hatred between Jews. The most elaborate example used to illustrate the point, tells the story of the confusion of a certain a-Kamtza, an invited guest to a wedding, and Bar Kamza, the mistakenly invited man whom the host dislikes intensely. The host, discovering Bar Kamtza at his feast, demands he leave, and refuses to relent even when Bar Kamtza offers to pay for the full feast. Angry and resentful, Bar Kamtza plots to use the Romans to take vengeance, not only against the host, but the rabbis who stood about and did not intervene while he was being unbearably humiliated. Deeply knowledgeable about both the halacha and the proclivities of its interpreters, and determined to take vengeance, Bar Kamtza sets off a chain of events that ultimately led Rome to destroy the Temple.

Josephus, the historian, tells a different tale. Although it failed, that failure was hardly fore-ordained, and had it succeeded, it would rank as the first successful blow against the juggernaut of Roman hegemony that dominated the previous centuries of Mediterranean history. In Josephus’ account, there were plenty of hatreds, and some – like the Zealots who burned the besieged city’s supplies – clearly contributed to the failure of the Jewish revolt. In historical terms, Josephus is both more embedded in events, and confirmed by outside sources which show a vast range of prophetic/messianic behavior among individuals acting before receptive crowds. Far from gratuitous, the passions that drove the Jewish Revolt might best be considered apocalyptic: in other words, for the participants, the things at stake in these hatreds, were cosmic; this was the final battle.

These believers, whom I call roosters, who live in apocalyptic time, in the certainty that the culmination of history is underway, can behave at once enthusiastically and self-destructively, like the Xhosa in what became South Africa in the mid-19th century. Told by an adolescent girl to slaughter their cattle in preparation for redemption, many Xhosa, including their greatest chief slaughtered their precious herds in anticipation, and each time that anticipation disappointed, they killed even more systematically. They followed this pattern of doubling down so determinedly that they went from voluntary sacrifice (believers killing their own cattle) into coercive purity (killing the cattle of non-believers). In the end, they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of cattle, and tens of thousands of Xhosa starved.[i]

Salem on the Thames: What Connecticut College’s Andrew Pessin Affair Teaches Us.

Salem on the Thames:

What Connecticut College’s Andrew Pessin Affair Teaches Us.

[A briefer version of this article has been published at American Interest.]

Academics like to think of themselves as autonomous thinkers. Academia – literally the protected realm of free speech – give professors enormous privileges, not only the right to speak their minds, but also not to lose their livelihood by displeasing those more powerful. Few members of even developed democracies enjoy the exceptional privileges of freedom given to academics: to speak out, dissent, criticize, to “speak truth to power” with relative impunity. Try getting such individuated folks to all toe one line? Try herding cats.

The very fact that civil polities treasure such safe spaces for free speech, attests to their progressive bona fides. Historically, power elites suffocate dissent; yet modern democracies invest heavily in a free academy. Especially in our times, when new social networks can turn ominously feral, one might hope that academics and their institutions, especially small face-to-face communities, could return that investment and resist such anonymous, predatory, crowd behavior.

The Pessin Affair, Connecticut College Spring Semester 2015

And yet, this is precisely what appears to have happened this last semester at Connecticut College where, for two months, a controversy turned campus life upside down. Active participants saw it as a time of mobilization, deepening and enlarging the inclusively excellent community, a revolutionary time of courage, commitment and democratic reform. Others, mostly outsiders and (rare) internal critics, saw it differently: Pessin was a scapegoat sacrifice. And sure enough, the incident begs out for a Girardian analysis of the sacred violence at the origin of all primitive religious solidarity. Kill an arbitrary, surrogate victim, a scapegoat, and create solidarity among the guilty survivor-participants. Of course, being a post-modern sacrifice, there was no blood.

Radical Thoughts on Fighting BDS

I was just on a panel at the IDC Herzliya Conference about BDS and Europe. [My remarks made to the panel treated BDS as a cogwar campaign to destroy Israel, one of the most coveted desires of the apocalyptic millennial set (and many other Arabs and Muslims, alas).]

This is the second such discussion I’ve been in (the previous one, on Wednesday past is here in French), and below are some of the thoughts they both have inspired.

If Others Think It’s Our Fault, It Is.

People who identify themselves as “left” consistently pooh-pooh the problem on the one hand, and then turn around to say, “and if we [Israel] weren’t so bad, if our behavior didn’t seem so close to South African apartheid, then we wouldn’t be having these problems.” So on the one hand, “it’s not a big deal,” and on the other hand, “it’s our fault.”

Of course what they mean by “our fault,” is not their fault, but the “right’s” fault – Bibi, Hotovely, Bennett, the settlements, the occupation, and any other Israeli action that provokes anger among outsiders, whether they be Arab or Western. “As long as the ‘right’ keeps talking and acting the way it does, it’s impossible to win the fight against BDS. If we uprooted the settlements, then the BDS advocates wouldn’t find so sympathetic an audience.” To paraphrase Roland Freudenstein, a foreign panelist, most sympathetic to Israel, “explain and defend everything you do, including the wall, including the occupation. But building settlements?!? Seriously, Settlements?!”

As for disagreements with figures like Obama and Kerry, their perception, even if false, trumps our sense of reality. One Israeli panelist at the IDC actually dismissed the Levy Commission’s ruling on the legality of the settlements, by invoking Ban Ki Moon, “certainly no anti-Semite” (and also, no lawyer). The invocation of Moon was not about legal reasoning, but about international perception. If that’s the way the world thinks, don’t fight it. If the world sees the settlements as an illegal move that prevents peace, then it’s up to Israel to bend. As one of my (former) colleagues once said to me during the early years of the intifada, “I support Israel, but Sharon! ShaRON!.”

The situation, as I see it, is the opposite. It’s not the right that’s responsible for the loss to BDS, but the progressive left, which should have won this particular battle against the demonization of Israel handily. Indeed, the attitude of submission that it argues we Israelis should take – if the “vast majority” (apparently a favorite meme in more than one place) believes we shouldn’t have settlements, then so be it – is the reason why progressives have folded in the face of aggressive Islamist demands. 

Student Email to Pessin Describes SGA Meeting of March 26

In this student email to Pessin, a member of the Student Government Association describes how the body was pressured into throwing out procedure and rushing through a condemnation of Pessin. Later, Aparna Gopalian, editor of opinion page of College Voice and member of the SGA, reflected on how successfully they bent that body to their activist will.

Student Account of GSA, March 26

Richard Landes, “Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel” March 30, 2015

Richard Landes,“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel…” from ISGAP on Vimeo.

Seminar Series:
Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective

“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel as the 21st Century Antichrist”

Richard Landes
Department of History,
Boston University

Monday, March 30, 2015, 5:30PM
ISGAP Center, 3rd Floor

Nuggets from the Pessin Affair: For Inclusiveness against Essentializing

As those following this blog know, I’ve been uploading documents on the Pessin Affair, a remarkable and terrifying moment when Connecticut College became Salem on the Thames.

As I sift through the evidence, the arguments employed by faculty when discussing the issue offer interesting insights into the kind of discourses that allowed the public sphere in the college be seized by cognitive Jihadis, driving an entire university community, with only the dimmest awareness of what they were doing, to conduct a human sacrifice in the name of inclusivity. Post modern shades of Rene Girard’s theory of sacrifice.

One of the memes much in use is that of the “equality of all cultures.” What this allegedly multi-cultural sentiment actually means in practice, however, is a dogmatic projection of a Western culture which has, by and large, renounced violence, encouraged individuality and diversity, and chosen to resolve disputes through public discussion. Combined with “moral equivalence,” this notion of cultural equality permits critics to equate acts that have vastly different moral and cultural settings and meanings.

This projection, which had something of a dogmatic sanctity to it, operated on two critical planes during the Pessin episode, granting to the “hurt students” all respect and concern for their feelings, despite the fact that they tendentiously interpreted Pessin’s remarks, and were “coming from a place” of war and not peace.

On a second plane, it operated to equate Israeli/Jewish culture and Palestinian/Muslim. Following up on comments outlining the wide range of beliefs and attitudes within the variegated Jewish community (i.e., opening up a place for Jewish colleagues to dissent from Pessin’s tone and opinions), a colleague insisted that everyone also should acknowledge the same for

… the much larger populations of Arab and non-Arab Muslims and Arab Christians worldwide who are nearly as diverse in their political and religious affiliations as culture itself. We must take care not to conflate these groups or essentialize them in our social / political / religious discourse.

Would this were true. On the contrary, the near-total homogeneity of the 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet when it comes to the political issue of Israel is nothing short of astonishing. There is vastly more variety of political opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, openly expressed, in .2% of the global population (12 million Jews), than there is in almost 20% of the global population (1.6 billion Muslims) about Israel. If this astonishing uniformity of opinion is a form of “essentializing,” then Muslims essentialize themselves by peer pressure and policing the narrow borders of dissent with violence, both state- and sect- driven.

Ironically, this professor’s advice not to conflate or essentialize contradicts his empirical assertions: he conflates Muslim and Jewish culture as “equally diverse in political matters,” and thus fails to understand the very dynamics that make this  conflict so adamantine.